There are many factors that cause migraine headaches and people who regularly suffer from them know just how difficult they can be to avoid.
Migraines are often treated with pharmaceuticals that will temporarily relieve pain. The problem with using them is that the underlying cause of your migraine isn’t fixed and these drugs can make you feel loopy and exhausted. They’ve also been known to cause heart arrhythmia, stroke, and seizures.
Melatonin and Pain
Melatonin is known as “the sleep hormone” because it regulates the circadian rhythm, increasing as the day progresses and inciting chemical reactions in your brain that tells your body when it’s time to sleep.
Scientists investigating the actions of melatonin noticed that when melatonin levels were high, the experience of pain is decreased. This discovery led them to probe further into the implications of what else melatonin might do.
Melatonin calms pain receptors in the brain since it’s hard to sleep if you’re hurt. The question was then raised as to how this chemical might be used in the prevention and treatment of migraines.
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In a study published in 1995, it was found that melatonin levels in women suffering from menses-associated migraines were well below normal (1). Since then, researchers have continued to study the effects of this natural chemical on pain with mixed results.
A Brazilian study published this year, however, showed that 3mg of melatonin effectively prevented migraines among a group of chronic migraine sufferers. Sufferers also experience weight loss. Not only that but the melatonin treatment was found to be “more tolerable than amitriptyline and as effective as amitriptyline”, a commonly prescribed migraine medication and antidepressant (2, 3).
How to Increase your Melatonin
Natural nutrient sources are always preferable to drugs since they are more readily utilized by the body and rarely have any side effects.
There are many foods you can eat that contain melatonin and/or will boost your natural production of this essential hormone (4):
- Flax seed
- Goji berry
- Orange bell peppers – of 24 fruits and vegetables analyzed in 2011, this had the highest melatonin content (5).
Other Lifestyle Tips
Apart from diet, physical activity is also a key component in your pineal gland’s ability to produce a sufficient amount of melatonin.
Keep these in mind for better quality sleep, even if you don’t suffer migraines.
- Electronic appliances such as televisions, smart phones, and computers emit blue light, making your body think it’s still daytime and suppressing melatonin production. Turn off such devices at least an hour before going to bed.
- Get outside: Your pineal gland takes its cues from the difference between light and dark. Exposure to bright sunlight provides vitamins you can’t readily get from other sources, like D and K. It’s also a formidable anti-depressant and anti-cancer agent. The contrast between the brightness of the day and the darkness of night tell your brain that it’s time to relax and settle down for the night, promoting melatonin production.
- Stay cool: You’re more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep if the ambient temperature of your bedroom is between 60° and 67°F (6).
- A foot massage administered immediately before lying down for sleep can improve oxygen flow, move lymph through your nervous system, and simply relax you. Mix a couple of relaxing essential oils with coconut oil to improve your massage.
Improving your sleep will also help ward off migraines and headaches (7).